Bloom These Stinky Plants, Local Group Decides to Dance
Maybe it’s the strong malodorous emission that’s
been said to resemble rotting flesh. Perhaps it’s the
shape of the plant with its towering stalk jutting from amid
a vast scarlet skirt.
Wake Robin Morris dancers celebrating outside the Lyman
The Titan Arum stinkily blooms inside.
The famous Titan Arum in full bloom.
Whatever the characteristics about the Titan Arum, the infamously
stinky plant that bloomed to much local fanfare last month
in the Lyman Conservatory, it inspired a spectrum of responses,
curiosities and to-dos.
One of the more artful
celebrations of the odorously offensive bloom was a gathering
of the outside the windowed door
inside which the Titan Arum sprung in late July.
Morris dancers clicked their heels “in
honor of the Titan Arum flower,” explained Janice Mason,
administrative assistant in Neilson Library and a member
of the group. “We called ourselves the Mighty Titans.
We dance for fertility,” she continued, “and
that thing sure looks like it represents fertility to us.”
Morris dance is an ancient English folk dance in which members
of the group perform jaunty, rhythmic steps in unison. There
are about 150 Morris dance groups in the United States.
Mason, who immigrated to the United States from Northampton,
England, in 1967, has pranced with the local Wake Robin Morris
dancers for 15 years.
The group also includes
Rachel Roy ’04, Margaret Bruchac ’99
and Jennifer Hall-Witt, a lecturer in history, and was named
after a plant that, like the Titan Arum, is known for its
stink. “It too smells of carrion,” remarked Mason
of the Wake Robin (trillium erectum), also sometimes
called the “Stinky Benjamin,” “so it was
just a small step to be excited by the Titan Arum.”
So on July 22, as the
Titan Arum unsheathed its projecting glory along with its
fetid stench, the Wake Robin Morris group ushered its arrival
in rhythmic fashion. The troupe made costumes especially
for the occasion, featuring an appliqué of
the Titan Arum, and danced through a thunderstorm to do so.
The college’s Titan Arum
grew from a seed from Sumatra. The plant, an endangered species
that blooms once every three to five years, bloomed for only
the second time at Smith this year. sequence
on the Botanic Garden Web site.